Ainslie Meares

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Ainslie Meares
Born (1910-03-03)3 March 1910
Malvern, Victoria, Australia
Died 19 September 1986(1986-09-19) (aged 76)
Melbourne, Australia
Occupation psychiatrist; hypnotherapist; psychotherapist; advocate of meditation.
Spouse(s) Bonnie, née Byrne (died 1979)
Children Russell, Garda, Sylvia
Parents Albert and Eva Meares

Ainslie Dixon Meares (3 March 1910 – 19 September 1986) was an Australian psychiatrist, scholar of hypnotism, psychotherapist, authority on stress and a prolific author who lived and practised in Melbourne.

Early life[edit]

Ainslie Meares was born in Malvern, Victoria on 3 March 1910, the son of Albert and Eva Meares. Both of his parents died when he was 16.

Meares was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, where he boxed and played tennis, and at the University of Melbourne, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science in 1934 and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1940. He married Bonnie Byrne on 18 June 1934.

Meares received his Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (London) in 1947 and, on the basis of his presentation of a collection of 17 published papers relating to medical hypnotism (with each paper being independent of the others), he was awarded the higher degree of Doctor of Medicine by the University of Melbourne in 1958.

Meares also served as a captain in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (1941–1945).

Meares was a Founding Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and, for a time, the president of the International Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.


Meares was an internationally recognised expert[citation needed] in the medical uses of hypnotism and wrote a textbook describing his approach.

Meditation research[edit]

Meares came to use meditation as a means of treatment of psychosomatic and psychoneurotic illnesses in the late 1960s.

Developing on his expertise in medical hypnotism, Meares came to develop an interest in meditation as a treatment for the psychological component of their chronic organic pain. He began research on the biological mechanisms of pain. He visited India and Nepal in order to document the ways Eastern mystics or yogis influenced their perceptions through spiritual practices, particularly meditation.

In Kathmandu, Nepal he met Shiva Puri Baba, who claimed to be 134 years old. This man taught Meares a simple (i.e., non-complex) meditation technique that he applied in his approach to the treatment of pain, including that of cancer patients.[1]

In 1976, Meares reported in the Medical Journal of Australia (see "Regression of Cancer After Intensive Meditation") that he had been able to achieve the regression of a number of cancers through his approach to intensive meditation. His system of meditation did not involve any sort of mental imagery (or "visualisation") such as that promoted by other sorts of mind-based interventions — and, specifically, he identified the interventions that were promoted in Getting Well Again (1978) by Simonton, Simonton and Creighton.[citation needed]

In 1978,[2] he reported a case in which his patient, having gone into full remission from his methods, had unilaterally decided — whilst he was absent in Nepal and, without any consultation with him and entirely without his approval — to use Simonton-type "mental imagery" as an adjunct to the methods she had been taught by Meares. Her cancer re-emerged; and, by the time that Meares had returned to Australia, she was once again in a life-threatening situation. A very angry Meares, demanded that she revert to his procedures and his procedures alone. Soon her cancers were, once again, in full remission.[citation needed]

Meares, an extremely shy man who was reluctant to lecture in public, went on to write a number of popular books, including his best-seller Relief without Drugs.


Meares' method included learning physical relaxation, which progressed on to emptying the mind and mental stillness: "This type of meditation is characterized by extreme simplicity and stillness of the mind, and so differs from other forms of relaxation, meditation, or auto-hypnosis that employ the use of a mantra, awareness of breathing or visualization of the healing process".[3]

This approach to meditation reduced it to the most simple essence, which was termed both atavistic regression[4] and mental ataraxis[5] by Meares; that is, in contrast with the far more conventional approaches to meditation involving mechanics such as watching objects, using mantras, reflecting on spiritual concepts or other thought frameworks involving willpower.

In essence the principal difference between Meares' approach and others was his stress on initially attaining deep physical relaxation whilst enduring minor discomfort, such as lying on the floor with a small object under one's back, or sitting upright on a wooden stool with one's back unsupported. The transcendence of this discomfort would then allow a much deeper mental relaxation and mental stillness to develop as the practice progressed, rather than if one just relaxes lying on a soft bed or lying back on a comfortable armchair. One of the unusual features of his teaching process was that he often demanded that those learning his techniques would sit in uncomfortable configurations and, at the same time, he would usually have the windows of his Spring Street rooms open so that the noise of the busy city, and especially the sound of the trams passing by, would emphasize that the student's goal was to gain an inner stillness despite the external tensions.

Meares described his method as follows:

"Our sensory input derives from sources in the environment, in our body and in the mind itself. When the sensory input reaches a critical level it is incompletely integrated, and anxiety results. A logical understanding of the cause of anxiety has no therapeutic effect. But the mind itself has the ability to reduce anxiety if suitable circumstances are provided. This can be quite easily achieved in the stillness of mind induced in a simple meditative experience known as Mental Ataraxis. The patient is first shown complete physical relaxation in global fashion. He is then brought to experience the relaxation as part of his whole being so that his mind fully participates in the process. He practises this, starting in a position of slight discomfort which eases as the meditative experience develops. The approach does not involve the patient in doing less work. The lessening of anxiety reduces nervous tension, psychosomatic disorders and defensive distortions of the personality."[6]

Meares' method was radical in its non-aligned and non-religious reductive approach. As well, it was a pioneering drug-free alternative to health and as well as being non-chemical it was non-mechanical. For Meares, "The key to our management of stress lies in those moments when our brain runs quietly in a way that restores harmony of function..." (Life Without Stress).[citation needed]

In Life Without Stress he describes it this way, "In the meditation that I would advise you to practise there is no striving, no activity of brain function, just quietness, a stillness of effortless tranquility."[citation needed] For him, brain function meant the brain was engaged even when using classical ways of attention to the breath, visualisation or counting.

The letting-go approach encourages achieving stillness by simply letting go thoughts when they arise. By inviting stillness, at first in fragments, stillness increases until it becomes a continuous flow. He stressed the importance of being uncritical of oneself, and of not assessing the process. Meares used the term "just being" rather than being about something or otherwise engaging the mind, "We are seeking a form of relaxation which arises in the brain itself..."[citation needed]

In an undramatic way, he encouraged the meditator to just let the mind be still for anything from a mere ten minutes a day. By allowing the mind to "rest" the meditation would affect the flow in other areas of the body, the mind and in functioning in the outer world.


In December 2011, at the request of Pauline McKinnon and the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre, the City of Melbourne agreed to place a commemorative plaque on a designated bench in the Fitzroy Gardens, (Melbourne, Australia) to honour 25 years since Meares’ death. Meares took his daily walk through the Fitzroy Gardens, only a short distance away from his professional rooms in Spring Street. Much of Meares’ teachings were in poetry form characterised by simplicity in response to the many and complex questions he was often asked about Stillness Meditation. The commemorative plaque reads ”Sit quietly, for it is in quietness that we grow”, inviting the reader to take a few minutes out of their day to experience stillness.[citation needed]


Ian Gawler[edit]

One well-known patient was an Australian decathlete and veterinary surgeon, Ian Gawler, whose search for a cure for his own bone cancer took him far and wide, including the Philippines.

Gawler, whose disease necessitated the amputation of his right leg, gained remission from the cancer. He has credited many hours of intensive meditation in sessions with Meares as one of the principal reasons for his remission.[citation needed]

But Gawler was concurrently diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) at the time of his remission and his radiation oncologist speculated that TB may have played a role in his remission.[7] Gawler's former wife of 21 years, Grace Gawler, who was his care giver during his recovery, also doubted that meditation was a prime reason for his remission, noting it had not cured his TB and that Ian Gawler had stopped the Meares' meditation after just six weeks since it was not reducing his pain.[8]

In response to an article about Gawler's remission in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in 2008, Grace Gawler wrote a letter which was published in the MJA in September 2010 (extract follows):

"An appraisal of the patient’s symptoms, combined with an accurate clinical history, reveals a more plausible scientific hypothesis for his remission than the effects of diet and meditation. Although diet and meditation may be adjuncts to a patient’s wellbeing, it is unlikely in this case that they were curative, and certainly veganism was not a relevant factor. Immunotherapy with BCG vaccine treatments, the timing of symptoms and the patient’s eventual diagnosis of tuberculosis could be associated with his remission, as postulated by his radiation oncologist in 1978. There is extensive scientific literature about remission of cancer, including osteosarcoma, associated with febrile conditions.[9]

Since Grace Gawler's 2010 letter, some of her claims have been agreed to by Ian Gawler.[10] Information in a 2008 biography of Ian Gawler also agrees with Grace Gawler's MJA letter regarding dates and timelines.[11] Referring to both Medical Journal of Australia articles about him (1978 and 2008), Gawler stated that "Dr Ainslie Meares reported that I had more severe disease when I first saw him than I actually did, and these timeline errors were carried over into the 2008 follow-up."[citation needed]

Gawler offers lifestyle-based educational self-help programs for people affected specifically by cancer and by multiple sclerosis, as well as lifestyle programs for the general public. All these programs feature mental imagery-based meditation as a main component. He has retired from his role as therapeutic director at the Gawler Foundation.

Gawler has written widely on meditation and describes his version as mindfulness-based stillness meditation. This is a combination of deep physical relaxation, mindfulness and the stillness-based practices of Meares but, in direct opposition to Meares' condemnation[citation needed] of any use of "visualisation" or "mental imagery", Gawler also teaches contemplation and imagery as adjuncts to Meares' main style of meditation.


Meares died suddenly, of pneumonia, in a Melbourne hospital on 19 September 1986. His wife, Bonnie, died in 1979. He was survived by their three children, Russell Meares (also a psychiatrist), Garda Meares Langley and Sylvia Meares Black.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Meares, A., "A Dynamic Technique For The Induction Of Hypnosis", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.I, No.18, (30 April 1955), pp. 644–646.
  • Meares, A., "A Form of Intensive Meditation Associated with the Regression of Cancer", The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.25, Nos.2/3, (October 1982/January 1983), pp. 114–121.
  • Meares, A., "A Note On Hypnosis and the Mono-Symptomatic Psychoneurotic", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, Vol.8, No.2, (Winter 1956/7), pp. 2–4.
  • Meares, A., "A Note on the Motivation for Hypnosis", Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.III, No.4, (October 1955), pp. 222–228.
  • Meares, A., "A Working Hypothesis as to the Nature of Hypnosis", Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Vol.77, (May 1957), pp. 549–555.
  • Meares, A., "An Atavistic Theory of Hypnosis", pp. 73–103 in Kline, M.V. (ed.), The Nature of Hypnosis: Contemporary Theoretical Approaches, Transactions of the 1961 International Congress on Hypnosis, The Postgraduate Center for Psychotherapy and The Institute for Research in Hypnosis, (New York), 1962.
  • Meares, A., "Anxiety and Hypnosis", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.1, (1966), No.10, (5 March 1966), pp. 395–397.
  • Meares, A., "Anxiety Reactions In Hypnosis", British Medical Journal, Vol.I, (1955), (18 June 1955), p. 1454.
  • Meares, A., "Atavistic Regression As A Factor In The Remission Of Cancer", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2 (1977), No.4, (23 July 1977), pp. 132–133.
  • Meares, A., "Cancer, Psychosomatic Illness, and Hysteria", Lancet, Vol.II (1981), No.8254, (7 November 1981), pp. 1037–1038.
  • Meares, A., "Defences Against Hypnosis", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, (Spring 1954), pp. 1–6.
  • Meares, A., "Group Relaxing Hypnosis", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2 (1971), No.13, (25 September 1971), pp. 675–676.
  • Meares, A., "History-taking and Physical Examination in Relation to Subsequent Hypnosis", Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.II, No.4, (October 1954), pp. 291–295.
  • Meares, A., "Hypnography — A Technique In Hypnoanalysis", Journal of Mental Science, Vol.100, No.421, (October 1954), pp. 965–974.
  • Meares, A., "Hypnotherapy Without the Phenomena of Hypnosis", International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.XVI, No.4, (October 1968), pp. 211–214.
  • Meares, A., "Meditation: A Psychological Approach to Cancer Treatment", The Practitioner, Vol.222, No.1327, (January 1979), pp. 119–122.
  • Meares, A., "Mind and cancer (Letter)", Lancet, Vol.I (1979), No.8123, (5 May 1979), p. 978.
  • Meares, A., "Non-Specific Suggestion", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, Vol.7, No.2, (1956).
  • Meares, A., "Non-Verbal And Extra-Verbal Suggestion In The Induction Of Hypnosis. Part 1. Non-Verbal Suggestion", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, (Summer 1954), pp. 1–4.
  • Meares, A., "Non-Verbal And Extra-Verbal Suggestion In The Induction Of Hypnosis. Part 2. Extra-Verbal Suggestion", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, (Autumn 1954), pp. 1–4.
  • Meares, A., "On The Nature Of Suggestibility", British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, (Summer 1956), pp. 3–8.
  • Meares, A., "Our attitude of mind in the psychological treatment of cancer", Australian Nurses Journal, Vol.9, No.7, (February 1980), pp. 29–30.
  • Meares, A., "Psychological Control of Organically Determined Pain", Annals of the Australian College of Dental Surgeons, Vol.1, (December 1967), pp. 42–46.
  • Meares, A., "Psychological mechanisms in the regression of cancer", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.1 (1983), No.12, (11 June 1983), pp. 583–584.
  • Meares, A., "Rapport With The Patient: Symbolic Significance Of The Doctor's Behaviour", Lancet, Vol.II, (1954), No.6838, (18 September 1954), pp. 592–594.
  • Meares, A., "Recent Work In Hypnosis And Its Relation To General Psychiatry. Lecture I", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.I, No.1, (7 January 1956), pp. 1–5.
  • Meares, A., "Recent Work In Hypnosis And Its Relation To General Psychiatry. Lecture II", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.I, No.2, (14 January 1956), pp. 37–40.
  • Meares, A., "Regression Of Cancer After Intensive Meditation Followed By Death", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2 (1977), No.11, (10 September 1977), pp. 374–375.
  • Meares, A., "Regression of Cancer After Intensive Meditation", The Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2, 1976, (31 July 1976), p. 184.
  • Meares, A., "Regression of Cancer of the Rectum After Intensive Meditation", The Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2, 1979, (17 November 1979), pp. 539–540.
  • Meares, A., "Regression of Osteogenic Sarcoma Metastases Associated With Intensive Meditation", The Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.2, 1978, (21 October 1978), p. 433.
  • Meares, A., "Regression of Recurrence of Carcinoma of the Breast at Mastectomy Site Associated with Intensive Meditation", Australian Family Physician, Vol.10, No.3, (March 1981), pp. 218–219.
  • Meares, A., "Stress, meditation and the regression of cancer", Practitioner, Vol.226, No.1371, (September 1982), pp. 1607–1609.
  • Meares, A., "Teaching the Patient Control of Organically Determined Pain", Medical Journal of Australia, Vol.1 (1967), No.1, (7 January 1967), pp. 11–12.
  • Meares, A., "The Clinical Estimation of Suggestibility", Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.II, No.2, (April 1954), pp. 106–108.
  • Meares, A., "The Hysteroid Aspects Of Hypnosis", American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol.112, No.11, (May 1956), pp. 916–918.
  • Meares, A., "The psychological treatment of cancer: The patient's confusion of the time for living with the time for dying", Australian Family Physician, Vol.8, No.7, (July 1979), pp. 801–805.
  • Meares, A., "The Quality of Meditation Effective in the Regression of Cancer", Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, Vol.25, No.4, (1978), pp. 129–132.
  • Meares, A., "The relief of anxiety through relaxing meditation", Australian Family Physician, Vol.5, No.7, (August 1976), pp. 906–910.
  • Meares, A., "Theories of Hypnosis", pp. 390–405 in Schneck, J.M. (ed.), Hypnosis in Modern Medicine (Third Edition), Charles C. Thomas, (Springfield), 1963.
  • Meares, A., "Vivid Visualization and Dim Visual Awareness in the Regression of Cancer in Meditation", Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, Vol.25, No.3, (1978), pp. 85–88.
  • Meares, A., "What can the Cancer Patient Expect from Intensive Meditation?", Australian Family Physician, Vol.9, No.5, (May 1980), pp. 322–325.
  • Meares, A., A System of Medical Hypnosis, Julian Press, (New York), 1960.
  • Meares, A., A Way of Doctoring, Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1985.
  • Meares, A., Cancer: Another way?, Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1977.
  • Meares, A., Hypnography: A Study in the Therapeutic Use of Hypnotic Painting, Charles C. Thomas, (Springfield), 1957.
  • Meares, A., Relief Without Drugs: The Self-Management of Tension, Anxiety and Pain, Fontana, (Sydney), 1970.
  • Meares, A., The Door of Serenity: a Study in the Therapeutic use of Symbolic Painting, Faber & Faber, (London),1958.
  • Meares, A., The Wealth Within: Self-Help Through a System of Relaxing Meditation, Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1978.

Other works[edit]

  • The Medical Interview: A Study of Clinically Significant Interpersonal Reactions (1957)
  • The Introvert (1958)
  • Shapes of Sanity: A Study in the Therapeutic Use of Modelling in the Waking and Hypnotic State (1960)
  • The Management of the Anxious Patient (1963)
  • Relief Without Drugs: The Self-Management of Tension, Anxiety and Pain (1967)
  • Where Magic Lies (1968)
  • Strange Places and Simple Truths (1969)
  • The Way Up: The Practical Psychology of Success (1970)
  • How to be a Boss: A Practicing Psychiatrist on the Managing of Men (1971)
  • Dialogue with Youth (1973)
  • The New Woman (1974)
  • Why be Old?: How to Avoid the Psychological Reactions of Ageing (1975)
  • From the Quiet Place: Mental Ataraxis: Thoughts on Meditation (1976)
  • Marriage and Personality (1977)
  • The Hidden Powers of Leadership (1978)
  • My Soul and I (1982)
  • Life Without Stress: the Self Management of Stress (1987)
  • The Silver Years (1988)

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Vivid Visualization and Dim Visual Awareness in the Regression of Cancer in Meditation"
  3. ^ Meares, ""A Form of Intensive Meditation Associated with the Regression of Cancer" (October 1982/January 1983), p.114.
  4. ^ The term atavism, derived from the Latin atavus, a great-grandfather's grandfather and, more generally, an ancestor, denotes the tendency to revert to ancestral type:
    "The atavistic hypothesis requires… a regression from normal adult mental function at an intellectual, logical level, to an archaic level of mental function in which the process of suggestion determines the acceptance of ideas. This regression is considered to be the basic mechanism in the production of hypnosis" (Meares, 1960, p.59).
  5. ^ The term ataraxy is derived from the Greek άταραξία (ataraxia), "impassiveness", and means "detached indifference" or "a freedom from disturbance of mind or passion".
  6. ^ Abstract of "The relief of anxiety through relaxing meditation", Australian Family Physician journal, August 1976, pp. 906-10.
  7. ^ Guy Allenby and Ian Gawler, The Dragon's Blessing, Allen & Unwin, 2008, p164, radiation oncologist report
  8. ^ Grace, Grit and Gratitude, chapter 12
  9. ^ "Cancer patients at risk from inaccurate clinical reporting in a high-profile alternative treatment story", Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), 20 September 2010.
  10. ^ Ian Gawler's blog - Out on a Limb, 22 November 2010; "It only has to be done once"
  11. ^ Guy Allenby and Ian Gawler, The Dragon's Blessing, Allen & Unwin, 2008

Further reading[edit]

  • "Dr Ainslie Meares, Cancer Victim's Guru", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 22 September 1986.
  • Bower, H., "Obituary: Ainslie Dixon Meares", Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol.21, No.2, (June 1987), pp. 251–252.
  • Simonton, O.C., Matthews-Simonton, S. & Creighton, J.L., Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step, Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and their Families, St. Martin's Press, (New York), 1978.
  • in French

External links[edit]